Tuesday, June 20, 2017 | By: Drotuno

Even In Death Chapter 18

Chapter 18 – Summon Every Nerve
Eyes huge, so little left if something
Cracks and clues, he’s crazy as a straw
Why denied, does no one care or nothing
How, you ask, I ever last so long

Cause I, I went blind, a blinding riot
He’s regretting every word
Those empty lies
One more tonight, a blinding riot
As I summon every nerve

“Take Out the Gunman” by Chevelle
“You’re trying to destroy us! Kill them all!”
The cacophony of mental noise that hit me was almost debilitating. No one wanted a fight, except maybe the wolf pack against the red-eyed bloodsuckers and Caius. The Volturi gaped at the sheer size and number of the pack, second guessing the orders they’d just been given. Caius stepped forward in anticipation, rubbing his hands together.
Emmett and Rosalie came from the back of the pack, standing beside Bella and me. They’d been afraid this would happen, and they weren’t alone in that thinking. Carlisle and Esme had been expecting this as well.
Jake directed his pack, which started to move into a formation of sorts, flanking us as well as stepping toward the front. There were ten of them – ten enormous, pissed-off, growling, snarling, drooling wolves the size of grizzly bears.
Alice, however, pushed by them, calling to Aro. “You saw what you wanted, not the outcome, Aro!”

Jasper was immediately behind her when two of the Volturi guard maneuvered to the front. They looked so very young, a girl and boy. It was the girl whose thoughts I caught first.
“Bella, shield… Shield all of us now!” I hissed urgently.
Alice flinched, and a scream barely left her lips before Bella’s shield enveloped us and the wolves. The young immortal girl grimaced, her face fierce concentration, but she glanced up wide-eyed to the boy next to her. He frowned, holding out his hands to send out a black cloud. It crawled our way, snaking over and around us, but Bella’s shield clearly kept it from touching us. And I honestly wasn’t sure I wanted to know what that cloud could do. Darkness enveloped us in a dome of swirling black smoke or vapor, and we all glanced around nervously as the wolves growled low.
“Alec, stop,” Marcus stated, sounding weary or bored or maybe even indifferent. I could no longer hear their minds to be sure, just the pack and my new family. “They have a shield. A rather powerful one, at that. Aro, stop this nonsense. It’s broad daylight; those are not the Children of the Moon we once eradicated.”
“But they’re using them against us!” Caius snarled, turning to Aro. “Traitors!”
“Defense,” Marcus countered, gesturing our way. “They could’ve already ended us all with those…those…”
“Shape-shifters.” It was Bella’s voice to ring out for the answer, and she was nervous but irritated. “Don’t you research where you’re dragging your…your…army off to? The legends of the Native Americans in this area are in print and online. You could’ve read the legends of these people.” She tapped Jake’s large flank but scowled across the clearing. “The Quileute tribe descended from wolves. They were forced to shift into what you see in order to protect their people from vampires. The only reason they’re on our side is because of our diet. They neither answer to you, nor do they follow your laws. In fact, you’re on their land.”
Oh, damn… Emmett thought to himself, shaking his head. Bella just accused the oldest immortals on earth of being ignorant. Aro should’ve Googled some shit, huh?
I snorted, but he was right. Bella had just accused them of not doing their homework.
Something akin to amusement crossed Marcus’s face, and I whispered to Bella to lift her shield. I needed to hear the group of people across the way. Those additional thoughts slammed into my mind, but I maintained a calm expression as Carlisle stepped forward.
“We’re not here to fight you, Aro. We’ve broken no laws here. Our treaty with the Quileute is a peaceful one; it always has been, for over a century. We respect their land, and as long as we live on the diet of animals, they respect my family.” He dragged his gaze over his wife, the wolves, and the rest of us. “They’re assembled here today because of me. The nomads who started this had no respect for anything and therefore unleashed a chain of events that couldn’t be stopped.”
“So you take responsibility for this madness?” Caius asked him, his thoughts gleeful at the mere idea of ending Carlisle.
“I do,” Carlisle agreed easily but not for the same reasons Caius was thinking.
Alice stepped to Bella, and like before, my wife created a bubble around Alice, Jasper, and me. Alice needed to see her visions without so much interference. She needed to protect the four of us while she did it.
Jasper met my gaze. This will be an ugly fight. Those two in the front have powers that could bring an immortal to their knees. But these wolves could remove the Volturi from this earth. No one wins. I don’t even have to see Alice’s visions to know that. There will be death in this clearing…on all sides.
I nodded because he was absolutely correct. Alice’s visions, with the removal of the pack mind and the rest of the mental influence outside Bella’s shield, were exactly how Jasper had just predicted.
The fight would be brutal. Death would reach all three groups – the Cullens, the pack, and the Volturi. No one would walk away without loss. Two wolves would fall, and the Volturi’s numbers would be significantly diminished when it was all over. We’d lose Carlisle, Jasper, and Bella, which caused my soul to shatter. My eyes closed, and I couldn’t stop myself from stepping closer to her, linking my fingers with hers, and inhaling the scent of her at her temple.
The key to stopping this standoff, however, was the very last part of Alice’s vision. She gasped, locking gazes with me. For a brief moment, I wondered if it was worth outing my ability just to make a point to Aro.
He’ll want you…and me. More than any other, Alice thought to me, but she stuck her chin out in defiance. But I’ll stand with you.
Steeling my nerves, I kissed Bella’s lips, whispering I loved her, and let go of her hand to face the Volturi.
“Aro, you should truly see what the outcome is,” I stated, and Alice and I moved forward. I held out my hand as an offering, as a gesture of goodwill.
“Why you? Why not Alice?” he asked as he and Caius met us in the middle of the clearing.
“Because with me you get everyone.” I held his cold yet curious gaze. “You can hear the wolves, your own people, and my family.”
“A mind reader?” Caius asked incredulously. Again, the word traitor crossed his thoughts.
“We’re not traitors,” I argued, shaking my head at his gasp. “We’re protecting ourselves. You’ve ordered our deaths. The least you could do is listen, see for yourself what the future holds, but you can also see that there was no ill will here today. We knew you were coming. We’ve been told how you deal death without batting an eye. Personally, I couldn’t care less about you, or how big Carlisle’s family is, or even how badly the pack wants to destroy you. I… I just want to walk away with my wife, my mate. I’d thought I’d lost her, but she protected me, even when she shouldn’t have come near me. I just want to continue a life I’d already started with her.”
Marcus joined his brothers and Alice and me. His thoughts kinder than the others, much more understanding. “Listen to the newborn’s thoughts, Aro,” he stated. “Tell us what you see, and let’s be done with this.”
Aro glanced at my hand, which was still outstretched for him.
“It’s a trick,” Caius warned. My brother is a fool!
“It’s no trick,” I countered firmly.
Aro’s hand touched mine, and his eyes widened. He saw everything, and I could see how his mind-reading worked versus my own. He could pull every thought from me – past and present – where I caught just what someone was thinking at the moment. However, with his ability, he could hear all I’d already heard. It was like reliving the last several months all over again in fast-forward.
His eyes tightened at the sheer mental din he could hear in my mind, and he quickly wondered how I could focus with that amount of constant noise.
I huffed a humorless laugh. “It’s not without difficulty.”
The loss, the heartache, the mystery surrounding Bella was hard to watch again. Then he saw the conversations with Jacob and the phone calls from a wife who should’ve been dead. The discovery of the Quileute legends and the Cullens was next, making his brow furrow. The fight with Victoria, the three days of burning, and finally he saw the vision that prepared us for the Volturi’s arrival.
Once we arrived to the current circumstances, I braced myself. The fight Alice envisioned was chaos and anarchy. There were fires and smoldering immortals, along with the blood of the wolf pack. Carlisle died at the hands of Caius, which made me sneer at the simpering little shit. Jasper’s fate fell to a large immortal named Felix. But it was Aro who ended Bella, which sent me into a newborn, bloodlust frenzy. His head was removed by my hands, because every thought he had only aided my ability to counter, and he didn’t stand a chance.
“You…” he barely said aloud. “You wouldn’t!”
“You touch her, and I damn well would. I promise you that, consequences be damned.” My lip curled in hatred. “Now…listen.” I stared him down, my nostrils flaring in hate and impatience. “Listen to the thoughts around you. The wolves only want to protect humans from us. The Cullens merely want to live in peace, taking whatever diet suits them, and your own people…they trust you, but you’ll lead some of them to their own demise. The only one who really wants a fight is him.” I pointed to Caius, who looked taken aback.
He’d learned to avoid his brother’s touch unless absolutely necessary. But Aro didn’t need it with my ability at his fingertips, and he narrowed his eyes at Caius, thinking his brother wanted a fight in order to take over the Volturi, to take control should Aro be killed.
Paranoia and anger hit Jasper, and Aro caught that as well. But the one thing that made Aro remove his touch from mine was Alice’s current prediction. She saw him leaving us in peace, and she searched way into the future, showing him that no other issues arose from the Cullens or the wolves. There were flashes of Bella and me learning to adapt to our new lives, with an intriguing look into a small home, almost a cabin. Even more interesting was the Cullens going back to what they did in order to live for longer periods in one place. I also caught a glimpse of working with Carlisle once more. That last thing made me glance to Alice, who was fighting her smile.
However, Aro’s hum of disapproval caught our attention.
“Carlisle’s coven is still too large,” Aro pointed out.
“It’ll eventually be back to the same size. You saw that in her prediction.”
“You don’t wish to stay with them?” he asked me.
“I’m a week into this life, Aro. I just recently got my wife back, but Bella and I had a life before all of this. I can’t see us… I owe Carlisle a debt of gratitude for giving her back to me. He vowed to us that he’d help us through this first phase, and I appreciate it. I will forever be grateful, but I don’t see us with them at all times. Nearby? Maybe. With them? No.”
Aro’s selfish first thoughts were exactly as I’d expected, a place in their ranks for Alice and me, which by proxy included Jasper and Bella.
“No, thank you,” Alice and I said at the same time, which amused him and our family, but he nodded when he saw her vision of Esme’s heartbreak, Carlisle’s despair, Jasper’s mental breakdown living in Italy, and my thirst getting the best of me, which would cause a guilt so deep and thick I’d never be the same person again. And I couldn’t allow Bella to take a human life, either; she would never forgive herself. Though, of all of us, my faith in her was unwavering when it came to maintaining the diet of animal blood.
“I can’t, Aro.” I shook my head. “It’s not what you consider normal, but I can’t live any other way. But if you choose to fight today, Alice’s vision won’t change.”
Aro frowned, the cheesy smile and laughing eyes at his upper hand gone. He nodded, turning to his brothers. “There will be no fight today.”
What I found amusing was the fact that Aro didn’t explain why he’d changed his mind. Every member of his guard behind him were curious yet relieved. However, it was purely selfish. His self-preservation was the only reason he decided to walk away from a fight. He didn’t want to die. Aro didn’t give a damn about anyone else losing their life in that clearing, but he weighed out all that his brothers had argued and turned back to face us all.
“We’ll be checking in on you, Carlisle. Please make sure to maintain the laws. Should your coven get out of hand, we’ll be visiting you again.”
Carlisle bowed his head a little, his mind terribly curious as to what had changed Aro’s decision. “I assure you, Aro, there will be no problems.”
“See that there aren’t.”
Aro turned, gesturing to his guard to move on.
Marcus gave me a nod, then Carlisle. “You are all most welcome in Volterra, should you come that way.”
What he didn’t say aloud as his blank gaze trailed over Bella and me was that he knew the collection of immortals and shape-shifters in front of him were far more loyal to each other than the entire lot of guards behind him were to Aro. The fight would’ve been a massacre; he didn’t have to see Alice’s prediction to know it, because he could see the ties we all had to one another in various ways. We would fight for each other with passion, honor, loyalty and, most importantly…love. The Volturi would not.
“Thank you. It was good seeing you again, Marcus,” Carlisle replied gratefully. He nodded to Caius, as well, in order to show good form, but Caius scoffed and turned away without a word.
The Volturi filed out of the clearing, and Jacob gave an order to his pack to silently escort them out of the area, to stay back but watch them carefully. Several wolves broke out of formation in multiple directions, and Jake walked away to shift into his human form.
Once he was back, standing there in his usual long, khaki cargo shorts. “What the hell was that?!” he asked, pointing over his shoulder.
I grinned but grunted when Bella rushed to my arms. “Easy, sweetheart. It’s over,” I soothed in her ear.
Everyone around us wanted to know the answer.
“Aro didn’t want to die,” Alice and I said together, laughing along with everyone else.
Raising an eyebrow at a giggling Alice, I added, “It was purely selfish. Had we fought, Aro wouldn’t have walked away from this clearing.”
“He wouldn’t have been the only one, though,” Alice told them sadly, having seen the death in her visions. Her eyes landed on Carlisle, Jasper, and then Bella, who was still wrapped in my arms with her face in the crook of my neck.
“Who would’ve killed Aro?” Rose asked incredulously.
“Me.” My answer was firm and truthful, and everyone around me went still and quiet, but I simply continued to drop kisses to the top of my wife’s head, running my hands down her back.
It was Esme who caught on first, and she gasped. She put it together that I would’ve lost Bella and killed Aro in a fit of rage. I simply nodded her way.
“Well, then, I’m glad it’s over,” she said, not voicing any of it. “I suppose it’s time to finish packing and move.”
There were grumbles of having to pack, and Jake slapped my shoulder before following Emmett and Rose out of the clearing. I didn’t move from my spot, and Bella seemed content to stay in my embrace. Just before he followed Esme, Carlisle walked to the two of us, his gaze meeting mine. He had several questions rolling around in his mind, but I stayed quiet, patient enough to let him sort out what he wanted to say.
“You handled Aro well, Edward,” he stated softly, and Bella turned to face him. “It was a risk to show him what your talent was but a wise decision in the end. What did he see?”
I shrugged, kissing the back of Bella’s head. “Alice and I showed him everything. Past, present, and future. He saw it all.”
My family will never be the same now that you’re with us. He thought that to me, but he’d heard my statement to Aro about not living with the Cullens. Thank you, Edward.
I nodded, giving him a small smile before he left Bella and me alone in the clearing. I sighed deeply, turning her to face me.
“Can I hear just you now?” I asked her, grinning at her adorable giggle and sweet kisses to my lips. As soon as all the minds that were fading in the distance disappeared, I heard my wife’s, my mate’s, beautiful mind.
Did you mean what you said, Edward?
“Which part?” I asked in a whisper as I brushed kisses across her lips.
The part about continuing the life you and I started. Her golden eyes blinked up at me, and she wanted to know if that was something for Aro or if it was the truth.
“It’s absolutely the truth, my Bella,” I vowed. “We wanted a life together. Now we can have endless lives together. And honestly, sweetheart, I can’t wait to get started.”
Bella kissed my lips. “Okay…” She nodded, pulling back and cupping my face, thinking I was handsome and brave and so very sweet. It made me chuckle at her, but she simply kissed me again. “Okay,” she said again. “Then before we leave Washington, I… Edward, can we get a few things from our house?”
I pulled her to me again. “Anything you want, Bella. I promise.” I squeezed her close, adding, “Now, we just have to explain to Steve we’re moving him…again.”
Bella giggled but pulled back to link my fingers with hers. “He’ll be pissed.”
“Mmm, probably.”
I pulled into the driveway of my home, huffing a soft laugh at that word. The house Bella and I had bought not even a year ago could barely be considered “home.” It would have been, had things turned out differently. It could’ve been the place Bella and I had started and raised a family. It might have even been the place where we retired and grew old together.
On the flip side, the house held heartbreak. It was the bright, beautiful beginning that was destroyed by loss, even if the loss was temporary. In grief, I’d begun to hate the house my wife had adored from the first picture she’d seen. The feelings I had for the pile of bricks and mortar in front of me were good and bad, and I didn’t quite know what to do with those feelings.
As I parked my car behind Bella’s little Volvo, I listened to everything around me. The neighborhood was quiet, human minds blurry with dreams or alcohol, depending on which house I focused on. I could smell blood, hear heartbeats, and taste venom at the back of my throat, but my thirst was manageable since I’d hunted on the way here. Stars could barely be seen with the bright street lamps on, but no one was watching as I got out, grabbed a few boxes from the back of my SUV, and went inside.
The house had a closed-up, musty smell, the scent of the humans we once were slowly ebbing away. The lights were off, except for the one in the stairwell that I usually left on when no one was home. All curtains and blinds were drawn shut, too, which made moving at vampire speed a touch easier.
However, one scent was new and bold, and it was coming from the den. I leaned in the doorway, watching Bella walk along the bookshelf while her fingers trailed down the side of my piano. Her smile was sad but no less beautiful than it always was. I’d dropped her off so she wouldn’t be seen coming in, and as much as I wanted to hear her mind, I’d asked her to keep her shield down because I needed to hear the neighborhood around me while I was inside the house. However, I was terribly curious as to what she was thinking.
“I feel…” she started but seemed to struggle to find the right word. “I feel cheated out of this house.”
Nodding, I walked to her to press a long, heavy kiss to the middle of her forehead. “Me, too,” I whispered against her skin. “But not as cheated as when I thought I’d lost you.”
Her nose wrinkled adorably when I pressed my forehead to hers. “I know. I’m sorry. You were so hurt, Edward.”
“I was. I’m pretty good now,” I said, a smile curling up my lips when she giggled a little. I pressed a brief kiss to her lips. “Sweetheart, this is your show. Tell me what I’m taking. We’ve got a couple hours at best.”
She sighed, kissed me back, and then pulled away. “Just personal stuff, baby, and some clothes from upstairs. Oh! And Steve’s stuff.”
“You know, they make more scratching posts and cat toys, my Bella.”
“Oh, but they’re his things, Edward!” She pouted like a damn champ at my laugh. “Seriously. Some of those toys he’s had since he was a kitten when we lived at the apartment.”
Grinning, I shook my head. “I’ll take the upstairs. You got the downstairs? And we’ll drop everything we’re taking by the front door.”
I passed the kitchen and headed upstairs. The spare bedroom was still an unpacked mess of boxes and things that had never truly found a place in this house. There were new, decorative things Bella had bought before we’d even closed on the house, and there were things I’d had no clue where to put once she was gone. Even when Charlie and Jake had helped me unpack the necessary stuff, we’d been lost as to most of the boxes we’d stashed in the spare room.
In the master bedroom, I opened the closet, pulling out the clothes Bella and I would need the most while in Alaska. My nose wrinkled at the thought, but this was something we couldn’t avoid. We had to go. We had to get out of the place where we knew too many people, but we also needed to go to learn. My thirst was under control at the moment, but soon the humans surrounding us in their homes would start to become harder and harder to resist, which was why I told Bella we had a couple of hours to get this done. We’d wanted to do this alone, without the Cullens’ help, and Alice had seen it work, but only if we kept our time limited. We’d chosen to come in the middle of the night so no one would pay me any attention pulling back into my driveway after being gone for several weeks.
I toted the clothes from the closet to the chair by the front door and went back up to pack a bag of the things from the dresser. Once clothes were done, I found all of Steve’s toys, his tall carpet-covered cat tower, and his bed. All that went to the front door so I could load it up in the SUV.
Before tackling the kitchen, where I knew the fridge needed emptying and the dry goods needed to be donated, I stopped to check on Bella. She was packing up books, DVDs, and music. Some of it was coming with us, and some would stay boxed here at the house. Sitting on top of my piano were the covers for it. Next to them were the two small books Bella had left for me as a hint that she truly wasn’t dead – the book of poems and the one on Washington legends.
I picked them up, smiling a little, a small idea forming in the back of my mind. Setting them aside to take with us, I then started to unfold the covers for the piano.
“Edward, wait,” Bella said softly, her brow furrowed as she glanced from the piano to me and back again. “Can you… Do you think…”
“You want me to play, sweetheart?” I asked her. “You think I could do it and not smash it into oblivion?” I chuckled a little at her wince. “I dunno, baby. I’ll try.”
I hadn’t played in months. When Bella was gone, it shattered me to play to an empty house. When I got her back, I’d played a few times, but we hadn’t stayed here in this house for long. There was a piano at the Cullen home, but I was pretty sure it was just for decoration, because no one ever went near it. Now that I was changed, I worried my strength would be too much.
I sat down on the bench, carefully lifting the cover. Barely touching it, I trailed my fingers along the keys. Recalling music was a touch more difficult, but when blurry notes from my human memories surfaced, I carefully made a chord. It was a learning experience, that first song. It was wrong, too slow, not quite loud enough where it should have been, but with each chord I made, I adjusted, learned, and committed it to memory.
My brow wrinkled when the song ended, and Bella’s arms wrapped around me from behind, her lips at my ear.
“It’s still in one piece.”
Grinning, I shot a glance at her over my shoulder, and she kissed my cheek. “That was…interesting. I could hear everything.” She nodded, but I went on. “I could even hear where it needs tuning a bit. It was like…being one with the piano. Like it was an extension of my hands.”
“And you’ll remember every song now from perfect memory.”
I laughed, pulling her down to my lap. Cradling her in my arms, I kissed her. “I guess so.”
She gazed over at the piano, and then she cupped my face. “I want you to have that escape. You’ve always had it, so wherever we end up after this Alaska business, I want you to bring this with us.”
“Me, too.”
She sat up in my arms, shifting until she was straddling me on the piano bench. “I love you, Edward. And…I…I know this isn’t how we thought our lives would go, but…I want you to know that we can do this. We can find some sort of way to live. I’m sorry that—”
I kissed her lips hard. I didn’t have to read her mind to know which apology was coming. We’d wanted a family. We were going to try after I got through the first year of my residency.
“Hey,” I whispered against her lips. “Who’s to say we would’ve had a family?” I shrugged a shoulder. “Who’s to say plans don’t change? I don’t know what could’ve happened in the next year of our human marriage. Things happen – sickness and struggle and who knows what. No one could predict it, except maybe Alice.”
Bella snorted adorably. “I know, but we…”
“We’ve taken a different path, my Bella,” I said simply, trailing my fingers along her worried face. I tilted my head a little at her, reaching up to brush her hair back. “Jesus, sweetheart, you’re everything to me. You always have been. Kids, no kids, houses, Alaska, Timbuktu, a cave in the side of a mountain…” I grinned at her sweet giggle. “All of that simply doesn’t matter if I have you. None of it is as important as this, right here.” I framed her face with my hands.
“And Steve.”
“And Steve, of course.”
“I’m almost done in here.”
“I’m almost done up there.”
“We still have the kitchen,” she pointed out.
“I know,” I grumbled through a disgusted expression, because the fridge was going to be nasty. Human food was foul now, but human food gone bad would be torture. “And you need to walk through the spare room for anything else you may want.”
My gaze stayed on hers, and she made no move to get up, which caused me to smirk up at her. The rhythm of our conversations never changed, and neither did the way Bella gazed dreamily at me. No mind-reading needed for that, either.
“Tunnel vision, sweetheart,” I teased her, but I could see her mood shift.
“I can’t help it. We’re alone, in our house, for the last time, and I’ll miss loving you in our bed.”
Feigning a serious expression on my face, I pretended to consider it, but I swiftly gripped her bottom and stood up with her in my arms.
“Well, then, I think we should send this house off with style.”
Her head fell back with her laugh, and I kissed her neck as she said, “Me, too.”


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